Ad Placement Recommendations
While requiring a different approach to reaching customers than B2C sales, B2B marketing in general and in the shipping industry in particular, uses many of the same media channels to reach their potential clients. These include social media (especially Facebook and LinkedIn), email, magazine ads, podcasting and YouTube, as well as trade shows as a venue to meet and network with prospective clients. On the other hand, radio and traditional television are not good channels for B2B marketing with enterprise-level clients due to their expense and the inability to properly target the ads.
Below is a deep dive of our findings.
At the awareness phase, the only goal is to get one's brand into the public eye, and more specifically, into the eye of potential clients while building up goodwill and authority on the subject of one's subject among the general public. This is the stage at which media placements have the most impact.
Email is one of the most common tools in building awareness, providing a medium that provides information about one's company or products "in a calm and educational way. The less salesy and promotional it feels, the better." To put it another way, keep it 90% educational and 10% promotional. Some suggested content types to include with an email campaign include free white papers, guides, e-books, checklists, articles, and even videos. However, it's far from the only channel available. In the shipping industry, the emphasis on these ads should be on "digital fitness, cost efficiency, asset productivity and innovation."
Other media channels for advertisement also play a crucial role at this stage. In fact, one survey showed that 63% of respondents to a Demand Gen survey "noticed ads for the winning vendor during their research phase," and 32% said it had a "positive impact" on their ultimate purchase decision.
Social media is an obvious choice for this early phase. It's relatively inexpensive to use and the average decision maker in the shipping department of an enterprise-level company, most likely being a Generation Xer, spends seven-plus hours a week there. In terms of the platform, Facebook is the obvious choice, with 81% adoption among Millennials (though this is in decline). While only 33% of Gen Xers are on LinkedIn, the platform's user base tends to be professionals, with 61 million "senior level influencers" and 40 million in "decision-making positions," so marketing and outreach on this platform (not to mention researching possible sales leads) should also be a priority. Instagram is technically more popular than LinkedIn, but its visual nature makes it more suitable to B2C marketing.
While some studies show that radio is an effective means of reaching as many as 93% of small business owners, there is no evidence of a similar reach among enterprise-level decision makers. Likewise, there is no discussion of traditional television as a channel to reach these decision makers; it is likely that television is simply too expensive to target such a small subset of the population.
Podcasting, on the other hand, is a relatively inexpensive means to promote a brand, with 21% of the US population listening to at least one podcast monthly in 2017. One avenue is for the vendor to create a branded podcast, linking the "brand with high-value content, making it easy for listeners to associate the insights [shared] with your company." The warning to keep the content educational instead of "salesy" is especially critical here, or the podcast and the brand lose its sense of authoritativeness. However, it takes time and someone with the right talent to build an audience.
Another route would be to partner with an existing podcast with an audience in the targeted sector. A 2017 Nielsen study showed that 70% of podcast listeners reported increased brand awareness after hearing a podcast ad, and 62% demonstrated "successful brand recall." In addition, over half the ads "did better than pre-roll [ads] in increasing purchase intent lift." The reason for this may be related to the fact that 66% of respondents say that they listen to podcasts to "learn something new," compared to just 40% of TV viewers. While these statistics are not specific to B2B customers, they demonstrate the power of a podcast to engage and influence their audience.
YouTube videos can fill a similar role in enabling the creation of branded content. In fact, with YouTube being second only to Google in the use of its search engine, it has an amazing reach, and Adwords for Video can drive traffic to even a newer channel. As in the case of podcasts, marketing videos on YouTube are best kept "short and sweet," with the most popular videos being under two minutes in length. However, creativity is vital here, and a static shot of a suited executive just talking won't engage any potential client.
Magazine ads, which had an audience of 1.75 billion in 2015, offer another good opportunity to reach "professionals and B2B audiences." Ads here have the advantage that they can be focused on trade publications and business magazines specific to the targeted industries.
There is a popular adage in the sales community, which is ultimately traceable to a 2015 article by Salesforce, that it takes 6-8 touchpoints to convert a B2B sale. This is actually a simplification of a still earlier article by the Online Marketing Institute that proposed 7-13+ touches to convert a sale. As Salesforce explains, "It often takes several touches for a consumer to make the choice to request information, and even more for marketing to gather the information needed to determine if a lead is ready to be passed to sales."
At the consideration stage, the potential client is aware of their problem and at least has a passing familiarity with the vendor's product or service. While the advertisement strategies used to promote the brand can serve to keep the vendor at the top of the potential client's mind during this phase, marketing has to start shifting from indirect to direct. At this point, the balance shifts to about 70% educational and 30% promotional as the vendor directly targets the companies that might be interested in their product or service. Some standard types of content to reach people at this stage are free webinars, case studies, samples, specification sheets, and catalogs. It's particularly important that potential clients be able to access information about the vendor's offerings in an easily consumable form, and 97% of decision makers say that it's "important for vendors to provide timely responses to inquiries."
However important providing that information is, the Marketing Insider Group's adage is key: "Ultimately, customers don’t buy from companies, they buy from people." Social media can be especially useful at this stage, offering a forum for questions, engagement and support to individual potential clients, and a channel to bring potential customers to the vendor's main website, but most importantly, to identify prospects. A "company can reach to social media users who’ve shown some interest in the types of products the company sells or who work in certain industries," with LinkedIn being especially useful at this stage due to its nature.
Events, particularly trade shows, provide an excellent opportunity to directly market the vendor's brand to new parties, but also provide an excellent venue for the direct contact with interested parties needed at this stage. It also offers a chance to give demonstrations and offer free swag that will remind potential clients of the vendor after the show is over. Attendees often announce their intent to visit in advance on social media, offering a prime opportunity to contact them or attract them using the event's hashtag. After the show, it's critical to follow up on leads promptly, running "a de facto remarketing campaign to leads (and other qualified event attendees, if possible) via email and/or social media ads."
The final stage in the sales funnel is the conversion stage, also known as the decision-making stage. At this point, the "potential client already knows their pains, problems and desires," and sees the vendor's product or service as at least a potential solution. Now the balance shifts to 90% promotional and just 10% educational. This is the point at which advertising must give completely way to a dedicated sales staff equipped with free trials, demos, consultations, expert opinions, and an estimate and/or quote, possibly with a discount as an incentive. At this point, media placements at best simply reinforce the client's final decision, but are not the major factor in closing the deal.
Media placements serve their most important role in generating awareness of a brand in both B2B and B2C sales, and a secondary role in reinforcing that awareness during the consideration phase. Based on our previous psychographic analysis and a study of the various channels for ad placement and marketing engagement, we deem that social media marketing and engagement, especially on Facebook and LinkedIn, are critical, while radio is likely negligible and television a waste of resources. Magazine ads, if strategically placed, are another viable option, and podcasts and YouTube videos have great potential, but can be tricky to implement. In the consideration phase, trade shows are an excellent opportunity to engage with potential clients, and social media and email campaigns become the primary remote means of marketing. Once a client reaches the conversion stage, nearly everything seems to rest in the hands of the sales staff.